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Becky’s Brighton Marathon Story

Brighton Marathon 2016 – My Wee Trip to Brighton

I love running and it appears over the last few years I’ve developed a habit of training for a spring marathon during the “off” season. 2013 saw me completing my first marathon at Brighton, this gave me a “good for age” place at London. Unfortunately a knee injury meant I had to defer my place, so I trained for Ironman UK instead (makes perfect sense…did I mention I’d done an ironman?). 2015 I finally got to pound the pavements of London, an amazing event with support you wouldn’t believe. However, going off too fast at the beginning caused a painful race with me muttering the words “never again” during the last few miles.

So of course in a few months time I had signed up for Brighton marathon 2016. My incentive was this crazy idea that I could take 4 minutes off my pb and achieve a sub 3:30.

Since Christmas I’ve been following a schedule, running rain or shine. Most runs I enjoyed and they went well, on and off road, but towards the end running became something I had to do rather than wanted to do. Swimming, cycling and gym largely neglected.

The week up to Brighton bought on tired legs and fictitious injuries, the mind is a powerful tool….even mine! So all the self doubt crept in causing nerves to follow, my poor family….they deserve a medal for putting up with me.

Race day comes, I manage to unenthusiastically consume my porridge and get out of the house on time despite many insurance wees. Wearing shorts and t-shirt (and of course my rather fetching tuff fifty vest) I leave the house to find the car needs de-icing. Luckily, being the extremely organised person that I am (you know it’s true Phil) I found some de-icer and got on my way just 5 minutes behind schedule. I arrived at the AMEX stadium in plenty of time, my car was directed to the furthest point possible from the bus stop. En route to the bus I stop off at the stadium for yet another wee…..I really was hoping to retain some of those fluids for the race but it wasn’t going to happen. Sitting next to a lovely lady from South Wales doing her first marathon, her nerves actually making me look calm, we made our way to the start at Preston Park. I attempted to consume my ultra sweet high5 peanut energy bar, but this just wasn’t going to happen. So that was it, I’d blown it! Unable to follow the high5 marathon fuelling advice from the start meant that I was obviously doomed. In its place I ate a copious amounts of jelly baby’s, of course I knew that this wouldn’t work as a replacement as sweets had had no scientific research in their development and would therefore not fuel me correctly for 26.2 miles of running….. Anyone know a good shrink?!

I was soon to realise that the incorrect fuelling was to be the least of my worries. As I walked down to Preston Park I could see a sea of people, thousands of them. As you’d expect I hear you say. The problem was the majority of these people were queuing for the loos, you guessed it, I needed another wee. My plan was to pitch up, nip to the toilet then get rid of my bag. I decided to get rid of my bag first knowing that I wouldn’t get chance to before the race started once I’d joined the marathon length port a loo line. I then joined the queue, I was soon to realise that, as always I had selected the slowest of them all. In the distance I could see ten toilets (there were more elsewhere) but was also aware of 4 different queues going to them, there must have been at least 200 people in each. It was half an hour before the start, so I put my Carol Vorderman style maths to the test and soon came to the conclusion I wasn’t going to have my moment at the front of this line. With no other option I stuck with it and allowed my stress to get the better of me. I then noticed a friend close by who was running her first marathon, wanting to wish her luck I asked a fellow runner if they’d hold my place in the queue. I wandered over and wished my friend all the best and of course the conversation soon turned to the dilemma of pre race nerves and conveniences….I was advised that there was a men and ladies section in the park area behind the lorries. There was no other option, the next thing I find myself behind a box hedge, next to a complete stranger, keeping watch like a terrified meerkat.

Time was getting on so I wondered over to my corral, I just wanted to get on with it now, it was chilly and……I needed another wee!!!! Blue corral was started and we funnelled to the start line, if I crossed that timing mat needing the loo it would mean 1-my wee would be chip timed or 2-I held it for the next 3:30 hours at least. As fortune had it there were loos on the way to the start line with just 2-3 people waiting, I’d have to wait to start. Receiving messages from Phil saying “get on with it” and “there’s people at mile 1 already” I had to admit he had a point. Final toilet stop complete I made my way to the start, so few people at this stage I got a high five from Zoe Ball (it’s okay Zoe I had washed my hands and I think your dad is great), she even knew my name…Zoe Ball knew my name….oh wait, hold on, it’s printed on my running vest.

At last I was on my way, right at the back of the blue corral (3:30-4 hours)! The first section of the run felt strangely like a long start, never actually getting on with the race, weaving backwards and forwards through the streets of Brighton. I just wanted to get to the coast a start the first of three sections I’d divided the run into. Running trough the streets meant lots of bends and bottle necks, I must confess that I was getting a little frustrated as needed to go around a lot of people and getting boxed in. This distracted though me and meant that before I knew it I’d completed over 5 miles and was heading east along the seafront. I felt though that I had already lost a few valuable seconds and my watch was bleeping ahead of the course mile markers.

Heading out towards Ovingdean is one of the many mental battles you have to deal with during the Brighton marathon…’s the wrong bloody direction! And before you get to turn back you have to face the only real hill on the whole course, more boxing in too. As I continued east the leaders and pacers passed us as they headed west, running at an amazing pace just like the ultimate running machine..fantastic to see. It was then my turn to return along the coast towards the pier, knowing I’d be very happy when I passed it again later, but knew that that would have to wait some time.

At 13 miles on my watch the time read 1:45, good pacing but knew this meant I was behind schedule as the official 13 mile marker had not been reached and 13.1 marked the half way point but knew a sub 3:30 could be achieved. As we got closer into town the crowds and support was phenomenal, it gave you a real boost to head out onto the next out and back section through the streets of Hove. At one point I could see a long road of runners stretching out as far as the eye could see. Although at this point my running felt strong (always a good time to take a gel when I’m on that high, if I don’t it will be followed by a nasty low) and I’d got a bit of space and into a rhythm knowing I had to go all the way out and all the way back was pretty soul destroying. Luckily for me though at the end of this road were Phil and the kids, cheers, whistles, waves, kisses and smiles gave me the mental boost I needed to get back down that long long road.

Unfortunately the euphoria was short lived, I still felt strong mentally and physically but I was starting to tire and getting a few painful niggles, knowing I was tight on time I still needed to push myself. The dreaded chimney of the power station loomed, this marks the turn around point of the last out and back section….it look impossibly far away….not only that it didn’t seem to be getting any closer! The crowds were telling us to dig deep….I already was…..the crowds were telling us to keep running….we had no choice. I made sure at the feed and water stations I’d stop, getting the all important fluid and fuel onboard. I’d pick a runner when I stopped, when I got going again I’d push to catch up with them. By doing this I knew I’d lost no time by stopping and actually got some water in me rather than just wearing it.

Seeing Phil and the kids near the power station was very much needed and I was soon at the turnaround point and the final push for the pier and the finish line. I used the power station like a lunar module astronaut uses the moon, as my sling shot, knowing that I was going in the right direction I got a mental boost to use whatever resources I had left. Just before leaving the industrial area and getting onto the prom someone shouted “just a Parkrun to go” 5km, I can do this. That worked in my head. I could see time was tight, by my watch I could do it by the mile markers it was going to be tough. The gap between the two were getting bigger despite my best efforts to avoid this. So I pushed it, I could see the pier… was either incredibly far away or it had been shrunk! I felt like I was sprinting, it was such an effort and my legs were so heavy, In reality I was doing just under 8 minute miling but felt a lot quicker. I couldn’t have been doing too bad as people were commenting on my speed ” sprint finish already” was meant to be encouraging but I just thought….oh crap, I’ve pushed too soon. People were falling by the way side, the fantastic St John’s folk were were attending at least three people in the last two miles, whose legs had obviously just given up on them. Until you cross that finish line you can’t assume anything.

With not far to go I spot my friend Mandy, in her wheelchair giving much needed support and I got the final boost I needed. At this point I’m constantly checking my watch, at 26.2 miles it reads 3:28…. A sub 3:30 marathon…..however, I had yet to cross the finish line. The .3 of a mile couldn’t be achieved in 2 minutes, I gave it my all but I knew officially I hadn’t achieved a sub 3:30 marathon. I sprinted towards the finish line and hopped over like a rabbit, albeit a very tired bunny, as requested by William. I was so glad to finish and knew I had a PB of around 4 minutes less than my last marathon so I was happy. I stopped my Garmin (other brands of sports watch are available) to see that I had run 26.53 miles at a pace of 7:56 mins/mile which saw me complete the marathon in 3:30:46!!!!! Bugger!I received a text from Phil telling me my chip time was 3:30:37…..just 37 seconds out. I was happy though, I’d completed in a good time, ran extra distance and gained a new personal best. I was later to find out I was 82nd female out of a field of over 4000 so not too shabby for an old bird.

The next day saw incredibly painful limbs and I was hit (just slightly) by the post marathon blues and that 37 seconds was playing on my mind….if only I’d got to the front of my corral, should I have started at the back of a faster corral???? So, knowing that I will get a “Good For Age” place at London 2017 I have a chance to ditch those extra seconds, soooooo………LONDON’S CALLING…….just haven’t mentioned this to Phil yet 😉

Can you see the white roofs of the port a loo?